Mountain lions face greater risk of becoming roadkill in wildfire’s aftermath, study says
The number of mountain lion deaths from human attacks in the Western U.S. has shot up in the past several months, as have the number of dogs killed by the animals.
One reason might be the increase in fires that have swept through the region.
Wildfires caused at least 613 mountain lion deaths between 1998 and 2018, according to an unprecedented online database maintained by Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game.
In 2018, there were 394 deaths — an average of 1.1 a month.
A 2017 study of mountain lion deaths by the University of Minnesota reported that one-quarter — 28 of 104 deaths — came after they were struck by a vehicle.
The study, published Monday in the Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, found that the majority of roadkill mountain lion cases were in Alaska. The researchers found that 78 of the 104 mountain lion deaths were in the Lower 48 states.
Most of the victims in North America were adult males, and the majority of victims were shot by an increasing number of humans.
“I think we are in a new era,” said study co-author Dr. Matthew Henson, a Department of Anthropology professor at the University of Minnesota. “We are going to see a new dynamic where we’re going to see more attacks on humans.”
Roughly 20 percent of the deaths in the study were caused by dogs.
“At least in the past there have been dog attacks that have occurred,” said Henson, who was not involved in the study. “I think that the dogs seem to be an increasing risk, and for the mountain lion that have been seen in places like the Aleutians to have more interaction with humans, I think that might be something new.”
But while the findings suggest a significant increase in human-Mountain Lion conflict, the researchers said more research is needed before making any conclusions about how it’s contributing to more deaths.
“I don’t know how a human-lion interaction is affecting the mountain lions,” study co-author and biologist Dr. Mark F. Nutter, who is now a University of Washington researcher, said. “I don’t know if there’s a